obscuritan: (corpseparty_megane)
[personal profile] obscuritan
So I took a plunge last week and bought Far Cry 3. Not a big plunge by regular standards, but due to a limited income buying a current-gen game within a year of its release is something I almost never do. But since the PSN took £7.99 of my money that I couldn't get back I decided to spend it on the DLC for this one and save my second choice, the new Tomb Raider since it turns out it isn't about rape after all, for another time. And I'm glad I went with this one, since it turned out to be not only one of my new favorite games but also a lot smarter than it gets credit for. Here, let me show you why.

Note: In the following the very few outright spoilers will be in tiny tiny text while the following as a whole will be under the cut, since there doesn't seem to be HTML shortcuts for spoiler tags like black highlights etc.

What I think this game does best is make the case for the role of the player as an actor in the story the game sets out. Aside from some very basic instruction in the opening sequence you are, just like your character, dumped on an island that has its own shit to deal with and told "here is the situation, how do YOU want to deal with it?" And while there is the option of just ploughing through the story mode, a combination of fun and convenience means that you'll end up doing a LOT more, and unlike a lot of more wholly sandbox games, this actually plays a part in the story. As you know from the ads, the protagonist starts to lose his grip as the proceedings go on, but this makes sense whether you've barely whetted your blade or if you've cleaned out every pirate-hole you found by picking off your foes one by one like a first-person Batman or Solid Snake. In the former you're a scared college kid who's handling the pressure badly yet tapping into hidden strength, and in the other you've pulled a Walter Kurtz and gone so far off the deep end you'll need scuba gear. [Remember that Apocalypse Now comparison, we'll be coming back to that]. The boss battles play well into this, too, with you (for once) trudging down an irreversible path while being assaulted by violent hallucinations of your deepest fears before getting a chance to be extremely violent at the end. This might be a source of dread or glee, depending on how you played. But as the story goes on the action becomes even more ludicrous and high-octane, in order to reflect the character's state of mind as you (the player, and by extension the main character) get swept up in the island's warrior cult and all its violent opportunities.

Then the game holds you accountable for that. Hoo boy does it. Now when I made that comparison to Apocalypse Now I wasn't speaking idly, and if anything I think that this game strikes more keenly at your emotions than a movie may ever have the capability to do so (though that may be because when I watched AN I fell asleep during the first half, making me think the plot was "Martin Sheen goes to find Marlon Brando... and finds him"). That's because it was you the player who chose to be so violent, racking up higher XP bonuses for using napalm and landmines and skinning rare animals in order to carry more napalm and landmines. Yes you did have fun killing all those people, and yes that makes you kind of a douchebag. This is one of those games that at the end essentially lets you choose your own ending, which is considered lazy by some but I prefer to think of it as a "what did YOU think about what happened?" But in what could lazily be called "the bad ending" the phrase "You've won" has never felt like such an insult. A tribe of psychos now worship you as their god, what did you think was going to happen? Whereas in the "good ending" you decide to "grow up" and take accountability for your actions; blood, mayhem and all. And while either of those stories could have been played out individually as books or films, its you who decides whether to be Benjamin Willard or Walter Kurtz in a modern version of the same situation. Now I hear Spec Ops: The Line actually IS a retelling of Heart of Darkness as a videogame, but i'll reserve judgement on that until I've played it.

Other things that impressed me:
  • Citra, the 'pirate queen' and most interesting member of the "good guys". Now while the promo stuff made her look like some tribal sex queen, which is a regrettable goof on the ad department, in person she's one of the best female characters I've seen, both in games and beyond. While she certainly is 'sexy' it's less about her looks as much as her sheer charisma - not only can you buy her as the leader of a warrior cult, you also find yourself going along with her not because you wanna hit that but because you want to impress her. That said, if you do decide you wanna "tap that" like the horndog man that you are
  • How the game subverted the "Magical Negro" and "Noble Savage" tropes we've come to know and hate. The island's native people are a mixture of peoples who've come from all around the world to live on an essentially lawless pirate island, like the western world seems to think that region of the South Pacific is in real life. But it lets you dive onto that landmine of saving the "poor simple tribesmen" from those mean, gun-toting westerners (the pirates and mercenaries) because you think you're "being a badass". In the "good ending" you see the flaw in that logic and reject it when in the "bad ending" the game takes the power fantasy you were on to its conclusion; they sacrifice you to become their war god. Turns out they weren't so meek as you might have thought.
  • That the game expects you to come to hate the protagonist's friends for being sheltered American kids on holiday, and forget that your character is technically one of them, thus leading you to the bad ending and seemingly trolling the majority of people who bought it. Jason Brody is a nonentity, a cipher, and is framed as such in the narrative - he forgets who he is because you forgot, too.
  • How the "face" of the game, and one of its main antagonists, Vaas dies about halfway through the game, with little fanfare. I hear people whining online about that, but the way I see it that was entirely the point. Heck, the associated Ps3 trophy is called "Taken for Granted" as if to say "what, you thought that would solve all your problems?" Nevertheless I did like how he was a product of two cultures - his Rakyat tribe upbringing gave him the violence, while the Mercenaries gave him the drugs, thus he became a serpent that neither side wanted to embrace.
Finally, what sealed the deal for me is how I actually had to stop and think about what I'd done throughout the game. Just when DID I stop counting the number of people I killed? When did it become less about surviving and more about the thrill of ambushing, terrifying and destroying my enemies, all in the name of what I found to be fun? And why did I buy into the whole culture of violence and supremacy more deeply in a game that satirizes it than I ever could in a Call of the Gears of Duty: Modern Warfighter Battlefield game which plays the idea without irony or insight?

So ultimately this game made me truly think about myself and my actions, and the world around me. And really, that's the highest recommendation I can ever give a piece of media.

April 2013

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